Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Roberto Benigni: Tuscan hero

Roberto Benigni: Tuscan hero
You can take the star out of Tuscany, but you can’t take Tuscany out of the star. Tuscan actor and director Roberto Benigni has earned critical acclaim in Hollywood for his work. He’s the only Italian to win the best actor award from The Academy, for his role in Life is Beautiful. His role as director, actor and scriptwriter on Pinocchio in 2001 made him equally famous, or should that be infamous. Pinocchio, the most expensive film in Italian cinema history flopped in the US and earned him a Razzie for worst actor.

You win some you lose some. That’s the positive, carefree attitude that has helped Roberto win a place in Italian hearts. Not to mention his sense of humor. On winning the Oscar, rather than politely making his way down the aisles to the podium, he leapt over the row of seats in front of him and walked part way along the seat-backs, much to the mix of horror and delight from the well-to-do-audience (and whoops of joy back home in Italy).

Just as his fearlessness has won him many fans, so has his dedication to the arts and Italian culture. Inspired by his love of poetry, Roberto took on the epic task of reciting Dante’s classic Divine Comedy. Through prose and song, he passionately brought the work to life on several occasions, memorizing large chunks from the epic body of work. It was so successful that he performed the Divine Comedy on Italy’s biggest TV network, winning 60% of the viewers that night. Now, Roberto regularly tours the Divine Comedy, sharing his love of Tuscany with enthusiastic audiences the world over.